Which solar panels are best?


There are literally hundreds of Solar panels on the market to choose from these days and with new products coming along all the time it’s a confusing world for our clients.   When we first started our Solar Business we focussed on one manufacturer but quickly realised that we needed to be able to offer a range of products so that we could find the most appropriate solution for our customers.

Many clients are doing lots of homework before picking up the phone and often ask if we do a specific Solar panel that they have shortlisted.  Because we’ve developed relationships with a number of different suppliers we can usually accommodate any specific requests but we will still go through the process of finding out what they want from their system so that we can offer advice and guidance if we think there is an alternative that would work better for them.  In real terms the choice usually comes down to the customers attitude to quality versus cost.  As with all commodities, you get what you pay for and the long term performance of a system will be better if the decision is based on quality rather than cost.

However, many clients are overwhelmed by the choice of panels available and ask for our recommendations.  There are a few questions we need to ask before making recommendations.

  • What is their daytime usage of electricity?
  • What is their annual electricity bill?
  • How much do they currently pay per unit?
  • How much suitable space is there? This is the big question.  We would measure this during the survey – could be pitched roof, flat roof, ground mounted in the garden and we’d look at orientation, pitch, shading issues
  • What’s the budget?
  • Where are they on the question of cost versus quality?
  • Do they have any preference on the aesthetic appearance?  E.g. some people with slate roof prefer black panels, some prefer in-roof panels flush with tiles rather than those that sit on top of the roof tiles

 Once we know all this we can look at suitable panels.  The panels we recommend are chosen against certain criteria.

  • Quality brand name – e.g. Suntech, Schott, Bosch
  • History of manufacturer and experience in the PV market
  • Panel efficiency, positive power tolerance and any performance enhancing features
  • Warranty and likelihood of this being valid for the lifetime of the panel e.g. Hanwha have industry leading warranty

The available suitable space will determine the size and number of panels we can use.  The next decision is then around which panels allow us to achieve the maximum output with the available budget.  If we don’t have a budget figure from the customer we will often provide 2 quotes based on two different panels so that they can see the difference in cost and features. 

For more infomration or an informal chat about your requirements, please call us on 01525 213103.

Getting more from your Solar PV system

The unprecedented success of Solar PV to date has been largely driven by Feed-in Tariff.  It was all about financial return – we ourselves marketed on that message but think the tide has changed.  Tariffs have been cut dramatically and it’s time to focus on the longer term benefits of Solar PV.

We are now looking for ways to help customers make the best use of the energy they are generating and this starts with monitoring what you are generating.  In our view, we should not now be fitting a PV system without some form of monitoring device.  This enables customer to learn about their generation pattern and consider their consumption.

To really gain the most benefit from their solar PV system, owners need to use as much of the energy they generate as possible.  As they only produce solar energy during daylight hours this may mean changing their routine.  For example, instead of putting the dishwasher or washing machine on at night, they can put it on during the day instead to use their free electricity.  This will reduce the amount of electricity they draw form the grid and save them money on their bill.  The value of this will only increase as energy prices continue to rise. 

We spent 2 days at the Ecobuild Expo at London Excel recently and new technology is on the way to allow customers to monitor not only what they generate but also what they are consuming throughout the day.  Additional components can now be added to the PV system to divert any unused energy to heat hot water, something we’ll be offering our customers soon so watch this space.

Are Solar subsidies causing your home energy bills to rise?

Solar Feed-in Tariffs were introduced in April  2010 and there has been much confusion about where the money comes from to pay for these subsidies.   When we speak to our customers for the first time, we take time to understand what they know about the Feed-in Tariff and how it works.

There have been so many misleading adverts out there claiming ‘the Government will pay you for generating your own electricity’ that we often find we have to re-educate our clients.  I attended a Solar Power UK event last week where one of the guest speakers was from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and one of the questions from an installer was about where the money for the Feed-in Tariff comes from so even within the industry there is still confusion.

The Government set policy.  They introduced the scheme and appointed organisations to manage it.  The payments made to people who generate their own electricity comes from you and I through our electricity bills via the climate change levy which you will have seen on your bills. 

I have a Solar PV system on my roof.  I have a separate meter to measure what I’m generating and every quarter I send in my reading.  My energy company then pays me the feed-in tariff.  Each energy company agrees with OFGEM what they’ve paid out in Feed-in Tariff and this then forms part of the climate change levy  on everyone’s bills.  However,  solar alone does not account for all of the climate change levy. 

In 2011 the cost to a householder was less than £2 for the year to support solar subsidies, 0.15% of dual fuel bills.  By 2020, the cost to householders will still be less than £10 per year, on the scale of things a small price to pay to allow the solar industry to continue growing and developing to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.  Solar power is a clean, safe energy which has the potential to contribute significantly to global energy production but the industry needs to grow in order for the technology to continue to develop.

Rising gas prices mean electricity and gas bills will continue to rise so a Solar PV system will protect home owners from these rising costs for years to come.  If you would like to know more about how a Solar PV system could protect you from rising energy costs, call us for an informal chat on 01525 213103.

Protect your solar panels from theft

Solar Panels are still fairly new to this country but as the number of installations grow  inevitably so will the threat of theft. Whilst we haven’t heard of any solar panels in Milton keynes or bedford being stolen, with around £10000 of investment on an unguarded roof sadly it won’t be long. Other countries with more established PV markets have seen the theft of panels become a reality which is further confirmation that we should be considering protection of our investments. It is now possible to install a wireless pressure switch to a number of solar panels which if removed will send a signal to a central unit inside the property, Once the signal is recieved the unit will wirelessly dial out to the owner (or any other number) to raise the alarm. This system can be retrofitted to any solar panel installation and unfortunately it may not be long before there is stong demand for this service.